The World Today for October 27, 2021
NEED TO KNOW
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted global energy supplies. Now it’s not clear if world leaders can fix the problem.
In China, where officials curbed coal mining to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets, President Xi Jinping is asking coal companies to dig more and faster as the country deals with rolling blackouts, reported BNN Bloomberg. In Britain, which produces almost a quarter of its electricity through wind, a windless summer cut into fuel supplies while Brexit has exacerbated the problem by cutting off the supply of drivers from the European Union, wrote Macquarie University Finance Lecturer Lurion De Mello in the Conversation. Gas prices at the pump in the US, meanwhile, have risen 50 percent compared to a year ago.
As the Wall Street Journal explained, myriad factors have caused the spike. Demand slumped during the pandemic. Suppliers reacted. Now demand has skyrocketed as the pandemic wanes. The summer was unusually hot. This winter is forecast to be especially cold. Investors are reducing their exposure to fossil fuels amid calls for measures to combat climate change. But renewable sources of energy aren’t robust enough to replace petroleum.
Writing in the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria demonstrated the scale of the problem. Oil, coal and gas generated 80 percent of the energy consumed worldwide before the pandemic hit in 2019. Wind and solar-generated 3 percent together. Investors, governments and others would need to increase spending on renewable by 2,500 percent for green energy to replace polluting energy.
Now, analysts are worried about the potential knock-on developments from the situation.
The International Energy Agency recently warned that the energy crisis could undercut the post-Covid-19 economic recovery. Low supplies have already caused inflation, for example, as buyers are increasingly willing to pay higher prices for scarce energy to keep the lights on and factories humming, Reuters reported. China is already preparing for more supply chain disruptions, too.
If fertilizers become more expensive either because they are petroleum-based or require fossil fuels for their production, poorer countries could experience famines, the Guardian added.
Also, higher energy prices could lead world leaders to double down on the cheapest fuels available, like coal. As Axios wrote, if countries like China and India decide they must ramp up carbon-based fuel production, everyone on the planet will suffer as that carbon further warms the planet.
Optimists, like the Eurasia Group Director of Energy, Climate and Resources Henning Gloystein, believe these pressures will hasten, not slow, the green revolution. But in a recent CNN op-ed, Gloystein admitted that fossil fuels are still necessary as the transition occurs.
For years, people have been told fossil fuels were harmful. It turns out their absence is, too.
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